Top 2019 Books: #2 Harrison “Peter Rabbit” Cady Gets His Moment

#3 Madness in Crowds: The Teeming Mind of Harrison Cady (Beehive Books, $100)

Harrison Cady (1877-1970) may be the most prolific magazine illustrator you never heard of…until now. But his signature crowd scenes and nature fantasies were found in the pages of LIFE (where he was a staff illustrator) as well as Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, among many others, across seven decades. He was also known for his progressive politics, children’s book images and long-running Peter Rabbit comic strip. The small publisher Beehive has nobly revived this wonderfully imaginative mind in one of the most beautifully designed and printed books of the year. Underground comics artist and publisher Denis Kitchen provides an appreciation. But just fall into these thick pages of crisp, oversized images that Beehive has produced. This is what bookmaking is all about, where design enriches substance. You just want to hug it. 

In his magazine and book work Cady was renowned for his detailed, teeming crowd scenes. These enormous tableaux recall Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley in a couple of respects. Cady shared Outcault’s vision of of the modern crowd as a collection of discrete interpersonal worlds. But he also flattens perspective to give the comic audience a privileged, unnatural view of the social scene.